I LOVE social media! Anyone who follows me on anything knows that I usually post something every day, and if I don’t post on one media outlet, I make sure to post on at least one other media platform that I have an account with. Especially in today’s times, social media is used for so many amazing things! Businesses and free-lance artists use it to sell or promote their products and artwork, and let’s get real, people use it for self-promotion as well.
While there is absolutely no problem with loving oneself, with feeling confident in the person God made you to be, it is also concerning when all a person thinks about is how they appear to other people, or how they can please themselves and others by making themselves a appear a certain way. Now, don’t get me wrong – using social media, or taking selfies is not a sin – but it becomes a sin when you make that your idol. And I know you’re probably sitting there thinking “there’s no way Social Media is my idol”, and I am definitely not trying to make any one feel guilty for using it because there really are many good uses for it, but it’s important to understand where to draw the line between using it as a hobby and being addicted to it.
To help me discern the good and bad uses for social media, I made a list of reasons why I use it (you may or may not relate to mine).
Reasons why I use social media:
1. I am genuinely interested in seeing what my friends and family are up to when I might not get to see them every day
2. I want to keep in touch with people
3. I want others to see when/how I am having fun
4. I want others to see my accomplishments
5. I feel pretty that day, so I post a selfie
6. I want others to see Jesus in me
7. I want to encourage others through my posts
8. I like to keep up-to-date on what’s “in style” and what’s not
9. I want others to think I am beautiful, or funny, or cool, or all three (sad, but true lol)
These are the reasons I can think of right now, although there are probably many more. Some of the reasons are genuine, and some of them are more self-seeking than anything. And I think that, as a Christian, the reason I should post anything should be for the glory of God. If you think of social media in the light of eternal perspective, everything you post almost seems meaningless unless it is to bring praise and honour to Jesus’ name.
A super cool friend of mine, Hanesa Banks, brings the whole idea of social media into the eternal perspective quite beautifully in her spoken word entitled “Book of Fake” (I’m attaching the link to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxaUaHlMhWk ). And it’s pretty hard to justify that a selfie brings God glory – even if you post a Bible verse with it. If you post a selfie with a scripture verse, what is that telling non-Christians about the Christian faith? That our faith is all about us? Just something to think about. Again, I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty, I have posted selfies with Bible verses, or a message about God because yes, God is in everything, even us (which amazes me every time I think about it – the all-powerful creator living as the Holy Spirit within us!). However, from a non-Christian point of view, it is difficult to understand how he lives in us; to communicate how the Holy Spirit works is hard to get across over social media. It also becomes extremely easy for people to misinterpret what we believe, or put things in our mouths that we didn’t mean at all, especially because some verses can be taken out of context. And I’m definitely not saying that we need to hide our faith or stay under a rock for the rest of our lives. I’m simply trying to put emphasis on our need to self-monitor what we post online, and to ultimately remember that everything we do as Christians is representing Christ – whether you are accurately representing Jesus, or inaccurately representing Him, think about it. These are just my own findings from my own experience, and since social media is everywhere, I have been thinking about it a lot lately.
Some questions I asked myself were:
- Why do I use social media?
- How much time do I spend on it / thinking about what I will do on it?
- How many social media platforms do I use?
Now that I have answered the first question, I think it is also important for me to talk about the next two questions. As I’ve mentioned in my last two blogs, I’ve been going through Isaiah daily, a few verses at a time, and lately it has been about having man-made idols. Specifically, Isaiah 44:6-23 speaks volumes to this. After asking God to reveal to me any idols I might be putting before him, I immediately felt convicted about social media, and the role it had in contributing to my own self-promotion and selfishness. Do I think that everyone who uses social media and posts selfies is selfish? No, I do not. I want to make clear that this was a personal conviction because of the reasons I use it, the amount of time I spend on it and the amount of platforms I use on a daily basis. So I am in no way trying to judge how others use social media because I am not them. However, I do think it is very important to recognize social media as an idol if this happens to be the case for you as well AND to recognize the symptoms of social media addiction.
When I thought about writing on this experience of mine, I did some research on the online Brock Library and found some very interesting articles on the linkage of social media and depression/anxiety disorders. In a recent study, “Facebook addiction was explained by factors such as weekly time commitment, social motives, severe depression, and anxiety and insomnia” (Sriwilai & Charoensukmongkol, 428). I think it is important to note that even if you haven’t experienced severe depression , anxiety or insomnia in particular, the emotionality that social media might bring you is significant as well. For example, the article goes on to say that an excessive use of social media can lead to a lack of positive problem-solving skills in which one feels intense stress. The authors describe a positive coping technique as “problem-focused coping” in which one “take[s] action to alter the source of a problem”, and is good for a person because “it allows people to completely eliminate the source of stress” (428). However, most people who overuse social media have been proven to not problem-solve this way, and to instead use an “emotion-focused” way of coping where a person has “the tendency to reduce or eliminate emotional distress associated with a problem” (428). I don’t know about you, but I have definitely stressed myself out before knowing that I can just deal with the issue later, and/or just cry about it in the meantime. But as the article says, this is actually a terrible way of coping “because it only allows individuals to divert their attention from stress temporarily, but in the long term, it can cause individuals to experience more stress as the same problem resurfaces” (428-429). And social media contributes to this! It is scary to think that social media even effects the way we think, and the way we work with others in our problem-solving skills.
This article expands to inform readers the effects it has on our “mindfulness”. The authors write that “…mindfulness  reflects the ability of individuals to focus their attention on any activity that they are performing and not be easily distracted by other things” (428) – distractions such as social media, and the amount of social media platforms you use. The second article even points out that a person who uses more social media platforms is more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety/depression than those who do not use as many because they become are being so distracted by so many different things (Primack et. al). And while you might think that you are perfectly capable of multi-tasking, consider also the consequences of that which the second article also addresses: “Multitasking has been associated in the past with negative cognitive and mental health outcomes. For example, multitasking has been related to decreased ability to sustain attention, poor academic performance, decreased subjective wellbeing, and higher levels of depression and anxiety” (Primack et. al, 2). However, Sriwilai & Charoensukmongkol (those are quite the last names!) also give alternative solutions to make sure that people everywhere – in the workplace, in a school, or at home – are aware of the negative outcomes of the over usage of social media. Ironically, these authors, who I am assuming are not Christian, suggest meditation. They conclude that “meditation training might be an effective intervention for this objective, not only because research shows that it helps individuals overcome addictive behaviours, but it also prevents individuals from engaging in other dysfunctional means of coping” (433-434).
Although these authors are most-likely referring to a different type of meditation than the meditation on God’s word that I am thinking of, they still have a good point that taking the time to simply breathe and focus our minds can help us re-evaluate where we are at in life. As Christians, it is so important to set aside that time every day to meditate on God’s word and be interconnected with His Holy Spirit.
So that is why I am choosing to take a two-week break from social media. It is not much compared to the many hours I have spent with it or even thinking about it, but I hope it is enough time get deeper in touch with God, to take a breather from the demands of social media, and to simply re-focus my gaze on the one who is the true author and perfecter of our world. He should be the only one I worship. If you’d like to join me, please do, I’d be honoured! And if not, happy scrolling! I pray that you find encouragement in social media, and that you continue to shine your light by lifting His name high in everything you do!
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV).